Not even the council has faith in Weston
I HAVE read with dismay the council's proposal to move some 700 to 800 employees from their offices in Weston-super-Mare to Clevedon.
I HAVE read with dismay the Council's proposal to move some 700 to 800 employees from their offices in Weston-super-Mare to Clevedon.
I understand and appreciate the logic of concentrating in two locations, rather than several bases for council occupation throughout North Somerset and there is therefore logic in providing a centre in the north of the district, e.g. in Clevedon or Portishead in addition to the main offices in Weston.
However, I, as a local commercial property agent and chartered surveyor, am amazed at some of the comments made in the Report which I have obtained from the council's website referring to office moving savings which is to be considered by the executive on December 15.
I make the following observations with my concern both as a council taxpayer and running commercial property and general estate agency in Weston. The points I wish to make are as follows:-
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If the council decide to relocate offices from Somerset House, Weston Court, Oxford House, Badger House, SWEB Locking Road, as well as the Warne Road Depot to Clevedon this will immediately create a very significant increase in available office space in a market which is almost non-existent.
Such a move will give the impression that not even North Somerset has faith in Weston as an office location.
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No consideration appears to have been given to the fact that some 700 or 800 employees will have to travel to Clevedon. I believe it is fair to assume that probably 75 per cent of these already live in Weston and therefore the effect on Junction 21 of the M5 Motorway with additional vehicles which optimistically may be 500, will make this junction even more congested at both the beginning and end of the day. The ramifications on business in the town generally will therefore be significant over and above the simple council proposal.
It is recognised that this is a major problem and that some 75 per cent of those working in the office sector living in North Worle and Locking Castle already travel to Bristol.
The only sensible means of transport to Clevedon is via the motorway for there is no public transport of significance between Weston and Clevedon, no railway station serving Clevedon (Yatton being the nearest) and the access from any public transport is therefore very difficult and will undoubtedly lead to the car being the only convenient mode of transport.
The costings cannot be queried without more detailed knowledge, but the expenditure of �130,000 of council taxpayers' money to decide whether this is feasible seems excessive when surely the council have their own employees who can consider this with no impact on council taxpayers.
A statement is included in the report to the executive that there is no space available in Weston. I dispute this. There are buildings and land available which could be developed - for example:
The former magistrates' court in Walliscote Road, almost within touching distance of the main council offices, has remained empty since vacated in 2006 when the court relocated to Worle/St George's. This building could be adapted and retain the council offices within a very reasonable and close area, thereby reducing management travel costs, etc.
The council formerly owned site adjacent to the railway which, although sold, is capable of redevelopment for offices and there is always a possibility this could be reacquired and developed.
The airport has areas designated for employment generation uses and, again, could easily be brought forward to enable purpose-built offices to be constructed.
Weston Gateway, adjacent to Junction 21 of the M5 Motorway, has areas which already have consent for office use and I am sure the developers, if approached, would be happy to provide a substantial building which could be custom built to suit the local authority requirements.
There are other areas within the town which could provide accommodation and these could all be investigated if centralisation is required and I am sure would result in less cost being incurred by the council.
There is no mention of the relocation costs for staff being compensated for travelling from Weston to Clevedon and the on-going likelihood of delays resulting from congestion on the motorway and the impact this will have on council services to their effective employers, i.e. the council taxpayers.
Reference is made to the cost savings which relocation will result in due to the removal of the need to refurbish existing premises. I am not privy to all the council's leases, but feel sure that such leases will be full repairing and insuring and therefore there will be an obligation on the council to undertake works to comply with schedules of dilapidation which could well amount to a very substantial sum of money which will add to the proposed budget.
The availability of the former Clerical Medical Building at Clevedon seems to be regarded as the only possible option which will provide far in excess of the space required and, although there is merit in centralising, I do not feel enough investigation has been undertaken by the council to consider other alternatives which will have a greater benefit on the bulk of the North Somerset population which, according to the 2001 Census amounts to almost 40 per cent of the total population of North Somerset residing in Weston, whereas Portishead and Clevedon combined have just short of 21 per cent of this population as shown in the census.
Surely North Somerset Council should represent the majority of the population, rather than the minority and ensure the future of the whole area and not abandon Weston in favour of the north of the district.
MICHAEL T. RIPLEY, FRICS
Stephen and Co Estate Agents, Walliscote Road, Weston